Hearing loss and dementia are two different issues. But, surprisingly the signs of one may be confused with the signs of the other. Being unable to remember and recall information is often thought to be a lack of attention and trouble remembering what has been said. This can point to the mental stresses, all relating to dementia. But, just as likely, these signs may be pointing to a hearing loss that needs treatment. Mistaking these two is easy to do because of the way they both make understanding and listening more difficult.
A study from Baycrest Hospital in Toronto, Canada shows there is an overlap between those with hearing loss and those facing cognitive issues like dementia. Following patients through the exams for cognitive diseases, the study was looking at the number of people with hearing loss. What they found was very interesting.
Of the patients going through the memory health review, they found hearing loss in 56% of them. This is more than half of those looking for help. Even though this is a high percentage, a mere 20% of those in the study wore hearing aids to treat their hearing loss.
The connection between hearing loss and cognitive issues has been noted in other medical studies. However, the full picture of how the two conditions link to each other is still not known. The recent findings in Toronto, show the importance of screening for hearing loss when testing memory issues. People are still mistaking the signs of hearing loss for mental problems.
Recognize the Signs
Hearing loss deeply affects the way we look at the world and how well we are able to interact with others. It limits how well we understand what someone is saying. This issue with understanding can result in behavior that looks like the signs of memory issues.
Problems with understanding direction and information are often what bring people to look for help with memory problems, especially Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. However, both understanding and recall may be rooted in hearing loss rather than memory issues. If the person is not hearing well, of course, it will be harder to remember and repeat correctly.
Similar problems come up with slips in attention. Those close to a person with hearing loss will mistake a struggle to hear as a struggle to pay attention. In fact, hearing loss can make it hard for a person to notice when others are speaking to them.
Undetected hearing loss can also influence the results of verbal and speech-based tests. This means untreated hearing loss can lower a person’s performance during testing. Until these hearing tests become the first step in-memory evaluation, this issue may persist.
Hearing Loss Stresses the Brain
In addition to causing issues that look like memory loss, hearing loss can have a big impact on mental health. The hearing loss creates extra work for the brain to do. Work that taxes mental performance.
When we can’t hear completely, the mind has to rush to piece together the missing information. To do this, a person with hearing loss pulls mental focus onto hearing and lessens that of other mental processes. This strain can have serious consequences. For example, hearing loss pulls mental resources away from balance and coordination in our bodies. The result is that people with untreated hearing loss have a much higher risk of falls.
The mental stress that hearing loss puts on the brain may have a link to the development and severity of dementia. Hearing loss without treatment is proving to increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.
Treatment Is Key
The evaluation and treatment of hearing loss are now becoming more understood as an important step in neurological diagnoses. Hearing loss treatment has been shown to increase mental functioning in both people with and without dementia.
For people having an evaluation for dementia and other memory disorders, treating your current hearing loss improves the performance of testing. Also, it often resolves the memory issue they are noticing. In patients with dementia and hearing loss, treating hearing loss with hearing aids improves performance on mental tasks, understanding, and mood.
If you have noticed changes with your hearing and suspect you may be living with an untreated hearing loss, contact us at Hearing Group today for a consultation. Remember that sometimes symptoms of memory loss could actually be hearing loss. For this reason, it is so important for everyone to have their hearing tested annually.